Saruni Lodges and Camps
Supporting Africa Series
Saruni are an independent safari company in Kenya with camps and lodges within private conservancies in the Masai Mara and northern Kenya. They are incredibly passionate about conserving the wildlife whilst giving back to the local communities and supporting their livelihoods. Riccardo Orizio, founder of Saruni Lodges, started this venture back in 2003 which has been successful as both a tourism venture and as an example of a community led conservancy.
Saruni Samburu is a luxury eco lodge located in the Kalama Conservancy in Samburu. Before the Kalama became a wildlife conservancy, the land was used as pasture by the Samburu communities, so to these communities the resident wildlife was seen as a burden. The Kalama Conservancy was set up in 2002, and with Saruni Samburu coming on board and collaborating with the Northern Rangelands Trust, the livelihood of the communities and the conservation of wildlife has vastly improved; the local population now has an awareness of the importance of wildlife conservation and are stakeholders in its success, as such contributing to this whilst still maintaining their pastoralist way of life. The unique flora and fauna in the area is also thriving. A particular draw to the Samburu region is to see the ‘Special Five’ which is comprised of five animals – the reticulated giraffe, the somali ostrich, gerenuk, Beisa oryx and the endangered Grevy Zebra and there are now frequent sightings of these animals unique to the Kalama Conservancy.
Saruni employ 85% of their staff from the Samburu communities so that they can offer them a new career path and give support to their families. A fantastic example of this is Saruni Mara’s Lodge Manager.
Cecilia Rono Joined Saruni 12 year ago as a housekeeper in Saruni Mara. We knew we had a star in the making; her incredible hard-work ethic, diligence, attention to detail and warm personality meant she would rise up fast and furious! Following a stint in the Wellbeing Space and trained by the esteemed Centro Benessere Spa, Stresa on Lake Maggiore in Italy, in 2013 she became the assistant manager of Saruni Samburu. Having nailed that down, she was promoted in 2016 to manager of Saruni Mara, back where she started but now the head of her game! She recalls Riccardo’s words during the early interview, “one day I want to have a manager like you here” – and there it is – the first female Maasai lodge manager in charge of a property in her own community.
The nightly conservancy rate you pay to Saruni goes directly to the Kalama conservancy which pays for incentives for the local communities to get on board with wildlife conservation. This could be a range of benefits from funding bursaries for school fees, to building a hospital in a village. This money is also used to fund vital ongoing projects such as anti-poaching operated by both government and the NRT (Northern Rangelands Trust).
Saruni’s newest lodge, Saruni Rhino is located about an hour and 30 minutes from Saruni Samburu in the Sera Conservancy. This was an area where the population of black rhino had been depleted, however, since the first community owned rhino sanctuary was formed, a small population of critically endangered black rhino have been successfully reintroduced and have now reached an impressive group of 16. When you visit Saruni Rhino, alongside a Sera Conservancy ranger and a tracker guide, you will have the thrilling experience of tracking black rhino on foot. By staying at Saruni Rhino you are actively contributing to the survival and protection of this species. (Read Tom’s blog on his stay at Saruni Rhino, click here)
A stay at Saruni Rhino or Saruni Samburu also gives you the opportunity to visit the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy. This community run sanctuary takes in elephant calves who have been abandoned or orphaned due to a number of reasons, such as poaching and human-wildlife conflict. The keepers here nurture them and raise them with the aim to release them back into the wild. During your visit to the sanctuary you will watch these adorable elephants being fed and bathed and you will also see what goes on behind the scenes with the onsite vet. Your contribution to this sanctuary benefits the elephants to ensure they can be released back into the wild as well as the community that are now invested in the well-being of these magnificent creatures. It is incredible to see the bond and level of concern that the keepers have for their charges, something that until the inception of such projects would not have been the case.
Without the revenue produced from tourism, the work that Saruni and the conservancies are continuously doing cannot be sustained. The standard of living for the local communities will deteriorate, jobs will be lost and the incredible wildlife that we so long to see in these wilderness environments will begin to decline. It is up to us as adventure seekers and wildlife lovers to continue to travel to these countries when it is safe to do so and to offer support by postponing and not cancelling our holidays.
Saruni have put together a fantastic PDF report on all of the community and conservation work that they are involved in, they have also launched a wonderful “adopt an acre” appeal to help support their conservancies through this tough time, to read this click the links below.